Country diary 1917: forest in the grip of a black frost | Environment

Iron-hard roads rang beneath our feet and cat-ice between the ruts scrunched and crackled; a black frost had the forest in its grip. Under the firs was a litter of stripped cones and scattered flakes; the squirrels, in spite of the frost, had been busy, and over and over again we disturbed them from their hunt amongst the fallen needles and sent them scurrying up the straight boles. It was in the sombre foliage of these forest firs that we heard the short, high-pitched notes of the goldcrest, and saw two or three of the tiny birds hunting for insects – hibernating insects too insignificant for larger birds to worry with.

Last winter played sad havoc with the goldcrests; it was a relief to find that a few, at any rate, have survived. On a post by this water-side at Oakmere was a cormorant, turning its yellow-gaped bill from side to side as it suspiciously watched for enemies. Though the whole breadth of the mere lay between us and its perch, it rose and made off, flying high, but later, when crossing the Common, we saw the nervous bird returning after a hurried visit to Oulton. Quite a number of these salt-water birds have been visitors to Cheshire inland waters during the last three or four months. The supply of coarse fish is apparently good enough for them, whatever food controllers may think about it.

1305 - Country diary 1917: forest in the grip of a black frost | Environment

Manchester Guardian, 28 December 1917.